Well, I did it again.
I was invited to see the opening night production of The Producers at the Mercury Theater over on Southport Ave. I’m a great fan of the movie. I’ve seen it many times. Zero Mostel, Gene Wilder…sheer hilarious genius.
There I was at the Mercury, sitting in a nice seat, center stage, and the show began…with singing and dancing. To my surprise, it was a musical! Much like Monty Python’s Spanish Inquisition, I never expected it.
In the movie, the play Springtime for Hitler is a musical but, other than that, nobody else sings or dances. Now, I’m not entirely out of the cultural loop, I know there was a Broadway production of “The Producers” starring Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick (ed. confession: I initially typed Broderick Crawford. Perhaps I should just quit now) but since I had no intention of going to New York to see it on Broadway, I played little attention to it. Besides, Matthew Broderick doesn’t make me think of a song and dance man.
Neither, for that matter, does Broderick Crawford.
I was similarly surprised a few years earlier when I went to see the movie Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. It starred Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter and was directed by Tim Burton. Who would expect a musical?
Zero & Gene–say no more…
Apparently, everyone except me.
I still remember the moment. It started out like a regular movie with camera moves and moody lighting and, I think, some dialogue. Suddenly, about five minutes or so into the film, a character begins to sing and then another. I had no idea.
My somewhat weak defense is, again, I knew it was a play on Broadway and since I wasn’t going to be anywhere near Broadway (at least the one in New York), I played little attention to it.
Somehow I seem to be able to live my life as a constant surprise. This should come, especially to people who know me, as no surprise.
By the way, the Mercury Theater production of The Producers is great. In fact, to use show biz slang, it is boffo. But I hope I haven’t ruined it for anyone who was expecting a drama.
Editor’s Note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was She’s Always There…
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I can see her.
I see her when I’m strolling down the sidewalk. I see her when I’m driving in my car. I see her when I’m watching my TV. I can only see her in my peripheral vision but I see her.
And she knows it.
She never speaks. She’s a silent sentinel waiting patiently in dimly lit corners, dusty doorways and musty stairwells. She bides her time discretely behind Foster Grants, under spreading chestnut trees, over rainbows and on the edges of the night.
I guess she’s always been there but it took me a while to become aware of her. I’ve gone through most of my life without a single peek, glimpse or glance of this chiaroscuro-esque figure. But, in recent years I have noticed her presence more and more.
I refer to her by many names— the damsel of the dark, the sultaness of the shadows, the mistress of the mist, to name but a few.
She lingers without urgency. She has no need to hurry for she knows that time is on her side so she tarries with nary a care.
I can lock all my windows, I can bolt all my doors, I can call security, I can hire a lawyer, I can get a guard dog, I can wrap myself from head to foot with aluminum foil but it won’t make a diff.
When it’s time for me to disembark, she’ll be right there to take my hand.
When that time comes, I’d like to think that she will shed her shawl of gloom and a bright light will emanate from within. Her craggy features will melt away to present a lovely countenance of soft, smooth skin, dancing eyes and a scent as sweet as roses in the month of June. She’ll be a joy to travel with.
But, like her, I can wait. In the time I have left, I’ll just have to watch my step because though she may be patient, like anyone, if the opportunity presents itself she’ll cheat a little.
Anything for an edge.
Editor’s Note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was The Writer…
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I sat alone in an empty bar called the Lonesome Dove on Forlorn Avenue.
I asked the bartender to switch to the White Sox game on the tube above the bar’s top shelf. And then I ordered another gin rickey from the well.
My cell phone buzzed on the bar top. I didn’t look at it. I didn’t need to.
It went to voicemail, and I took a long pull of my drink.
It was Benny Jay.
I knew, as usual, my editor at the Third City wanted a Cubs blog post. As usual, I lacked enough motivation to get off the barstool.
I could write about the Sox hot start. A strong top of the rotation, Adam Eaton storming out of the gate, and auspicious beginnings from some new signings.
But this season, Benny wanted all Cubs, all the time, from his baseball correspondents.
These days, Cubs stories generated so many page hits, not even the blog’s sleazy advertisers could complain. And so, I’d become a loom in the great web content factory, spinning yards about the city’s favorite sons with mitts.
Tens of thousands of Third City readers pined for the skinny on Kyle Schwarber’s injury. Was it a freak accident? Or was it the curse of the Billy Goat, bucktoothed and again nipping us in the ass?
At season’s end, would Schwarber’s gargantuan playoff home run from last year, encased in glass where it landed above the right field scoreboard, be a symbol of the coming of age of baseball’s next dynasty, or a painful reminder of what might have been had Schwarber been on the roster in October?
Or the much-celebrated new Cubs clubhouse. Were these lavish digs going to be the key to a championship somehow? Or were they a silly indulgence that made plainer the epic divide between twenty-fist century athletes and the rest of us? If the Cubs did win the World Series, did it even matter?
As a Sox fan, these questions concerned me less than how I was going to pay my bar tab. As an unpaid blogger for the Third City, I wasn’t exactly making ends meet.
Benny Jay buzzed my phone again. I ignored it. I’d have picked up by now if I thought I might otherwise get a visit from Milo, Benny Jay’s partner in the Third City blog empire.
Milo twisted arms for a living. But he was back in the big house, doing a short bit for parole violation. He’d left the state to put the squeeze on a witness in a racketeering case against him. The cops picked him up out there, but couldn’t make anything stick but parole.
I was staring at the last sip of hooch in my tumbler, when the bar phone rang.
“Yah, he’s here,” the bartender barked into the receiver.
It was time to switch dives. I needed someplace Benny Jay didn’t know where to find me.
I grabbed the phone and chimed, “Blog-Posts-R-Us.”
“The hell you say,” replied Benny, “You’ve submitted jack shit in weeks.”
“The hell you are,” Benny said, “You can write a baseball post three sheets to the wind with one eye on the ballgame. What you lack is motivation.”
“I considered that,” I told him.
“I’m still considering it.”
Now, Benny was livid. “Alright smart guy! You’d better get me a Cubs post or I’ll have Milo up your ass in sixty days, or less for good behavior!”
“Sounds like I have time to have another drink,” I said wryly.
I heard Benny mumble a few curse words and then the line went dead.
For once, Benny hung up on me.
Feeling satisfied, I ordered another gin rickey and asked the bartender to turn up the Sox game on the set.
The Cubs post, like everything else in my lonely world, would have to wait.
Editor’s Note: Chris’ last post for The Third City was Fifteen Buckeroos…
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I went to see The Writer. There was a possibility that we would collaborate on a children’s book. I put together some samples of my artwork and drove off to meet him at his domicile.
I found a parking space right across from his building. The catch was that construction was taking place on the street and there were tattered signs posted on tree trunks and lamp poles stating that cars parked there would be towed away between such and such hours, of which I was smack dab in the middle.
There were cars parked solidly up and down the street so I decided to chance it. Thus, my meeting began on a wary note.
The Writer’s wife greeted me at the door, invited me to sit and offered me coffee. As I pondered my response I heard a voice boom from the top of the spiral staircase in the center of the room: “Take the coffee!”
So I took the coffee.
I looked in the direction of the voice and the first thing I saw were mustard yellow socks as The Writer wound his way down the staircase.
“Pardon my entrance,” he said. “But I needed to find some things.” He indicated the armload of books and folders he cradled in his arm.
We talked, well mostly, he talked. He was the loquacious type and very theatrical in his delivery. He regaled me with tales from various parts of his career. He unloaded a veritable shipload of stories, anecdotes, and grudges as I listened, half-listened and, once in a while, looked out the window to see if a tow truck was on the scene.
Eventually he asked to see the art samples I had brought.
He looked as we talked, although, again, it was mostly him as various drawings would remind him of another tale of reward or regret. I must admit, he could tell an interesting story and he was quite good with the accents.
He put my samples aside and spoke of how we, including he, needed to move into the new century.
“These” he said gesturing toward my pile of samples lying on the couch, “are last century. They are…”
He paused just a bit for a slight dramatic effect.
Criticism doesn’t hurt me. If it did, I couldn’t make a living in the arts. I’m thick-skinned about that kind of stuff. Plus, I knew what he meant. My drawing styles are from the last century. After all, that’s where I’ve spent most of my time.
As for what The Writer was looking for regarding a twenty-first century style, I wasn’t sure and he, of course, despite his command of and facility with the English language, was unable to tell me.
In spite of the blunt appraisal, we spent another hour or so together in a personable manner. Between his seemingly unending panoply of stories, tales and sagas, I looked through some of his children’s books.
They were published in the ‘70s and ‘80s and it turned out that I had met the artist he collaborated with on them and had, in fact, animated one of the books that the artist had written and drawn since the separation of he and The Writer.
Yet another example of how small this large world can be.
Even with his dismissal of the samples I had brought along, he gave me some semi-baked scripts of his to work on but, he added, only if I felt the desire to do so. I accepted them but I had a feeling that desire was riding a streetcar in the opposite direction.
On amicable terms, I left. I’m always amicable. It was an interesting afternoon encounter, entertaining even at times but, truthfully, the highlight of the visit was finding that my car had not been towed.
Editor’s Note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Weird TV…
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My TV has been acting weird.
It began a few weeks back. When commercials came on, the sound would drop out. Now, this was fine with me because I don’t pay attention to commercials anyway. Long ago I trained myself to not pay attention to advertising of any kind but, especially, TV commercials.
This was not very difficult for me to do because it’s very easy for me not to pay attention. I’ve done it all my life. Just look at my school records.
Traditionally, when TV commercials came on, I would automatically switch around to other channels and usually make my way around the dial just in time for the commercials interrupting the program I was watching to end. Nowadays, there are so many channels, that is a very difficult feat to perform. So, I would either mute the sound or simply not pay attention.
But now, the sound was dropping out by itself. I wondered if it was some sort of experiment being conducted by the networks or merely an intervention by Big Brother who knew of my disdain for televised advertising.
The former theory didn’t make any sense and the latter one was too creepy to accept but, alas, not too creepy to be believable.
Through experimentation by channel surfing, I discovered that this commercial sound drop out syndrome was only occurring on NBC and ABC. It was unusual but far from a vexing condition to live with.
However, days later, it all reversed. The audio from the commercials returned but the regular programming was silent. One would have to be a lip reader to watch NBC or ABC on my TV. I could pull up the captioning but I didn’t really watch all that much on those channels to make the effort.
I could still uninhibitedly watch the other channels as well as DVDs or Roku so the sound problem on NBC and ABC was really more of a curiosity than an obstacle. However, the topic of buying a new TV was discussed but this one was only about seven years old. I realize that’s beyond the life span of a computer but a TV?
The whole thing’s kaput…
Days went by and one Wednesday evening I decided to watch a trio of shows that I enjoy. I sat down, clicked on the TV and then realized that they were on ABC. I’d have no sound. But, to my astonishment, the program came on and there was SOUND!
I watched for a while and noticed that besides the characters’ dialogue there was also narration i.e. “Sue picked up her book, tripped over the rug, righted herself and walked out the door”. I had tuned in late so I figured there was some sort of voice-over as part of the plot. The show continued with the narration and ended with it as well. The voice-over effect had made no sense but maybe I missed something.
The next program began and it also had the same voice-over narration! The voice-over described all the physical action and dropped out when characters spoke. I switched over to NBC and the same thing was happening there. I clicked to other channels and they were free of narration.
My TV had suddenly switched over to a mode that I suppose was designed as “TV for the Blind” but only for those two particular channels. In a sense, it fixed itself. I have always been of the mind that if you leave things alone long enough, they will fix themselves. In this case, I was finally right!
I didn’t find the narration bothersome and, in fact, I’m looking forward to watching a ball game on one of those channels to see how the narration works with the play by play.
For further developments with my magical TV, stay tuned.
Hold it! Wait! Breaking news! This just in…
I just turned the ballgame. The sound’s on, but it’s in Spanish.
Editor’s Note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Take A Ride…
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I laid my head on the pillow and immediately had a spinning sensation. I turned onto my side and the sensation changed to that of a boat caught in a typhoon. I carefully swung my legs over and sat up on the edge of the bed. The rotating of the room would not cease.
Damn! The vertigo had returned.
I had a tube of meclizine (motion sickness pills that are also commonly known as Anti-Vert) but I had a feeling it was downstairs.
I arose from the bed and upon the tilting funhouse-like floor (which wasn’t much fun at all) I lurched to the bedroom door. I stood there with my arms slightly bent and my hands grasping each side of the doorway as I peered into the hall that was subtly lit by the bathroom night light.
It was like a dream sequence scene out of a horror movie. The floor and doorways to the bathroom and two other bedrooms undulated and rotated. If this was an acid trip, it would’ve been druggily enjoyable but it was neither an acid trip nor enjoyable. I stood and stared in unappreciable awe waiting for the moving sensation to ebb but it would not.
Despite my pessimism of finding the Anti-Vert there, I entered the bathroom, mindful of balancing myself with hands on walls and door frames. Like Old Mother Hubbard I found the medicine cabinet to be bare of my meclizinic bone.
I would have to venture downward to another level. Dante’s Infernoville, man.
Down the moving and twisting staircase I slowly stepped and safely made it to the darkened first floor. I was pretty sure of where I had left the tubular container but I also realized that I would have to channel my inner Nik Wallenda to reach my destination without incident, such as stubbing a toe, wrenching an ankle, bruising a hip or worse.
Thus, I girded, and guarded, my loins.
Far out, man (illustration by Mr. Siergey…)
Fortunately, there were various pieces of furniture to grab onto as I groggily stumbled my way across the hardwood floor. My balance-challenged efforts were met with success as I found the object of my pursuit exactly where I thought it would be. Atop the china cabinet, it glowed like the Golden Fleece and I felt like an argonaut—seasick but sated.
With my placebo grasped tightly in my hand, I fumbled my way into the kitchen and filled a glass with some Lake Michigan Straight, unscrewed the cap of the container and gulped down one of the round white pills.
The stuff I swallowed may not always shut off the spinning but it would alleviate it. At least, I hoped it would. I did feel fortunate that this particular vertigo spell didn’t include the ingredient of nausea. That’s a real killer.
This was my third damn spell of vertigo in the past three months. It had become my own personal menstrual cycle of sorts. The only blood involved, though, was the raising of my blood pressure.
This vertigo-a-go-go has got to go.
There are exercises one can do to subvert vertigo and I have a printout of them. The only catch to that is that I don’t like to exercise. I guess I’d better start or else get used to being, to snatch a line from an old Mitch Ryder song, “spinnin’, spinnin’, spinnin’, spinnin’ like a spinnin’ top”.
Editor’s Note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Honest Abe–the Rally Killer…
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It’s springtime! The robins are back in town and the sounds of wood hitting horsehide and horsehide hitting cowhide fill the air. Yep, hope springs eternal as baseball begins another season.
I broach the subject of Abner Doubleday’s creation because of an article I came across online on some obscure website. It was a photo of a painting of Abe Lincoln, our sixteenth president–in a pose I’d never seen him do before.
Well, actually, it was a pose I had seen many times before except in this case, he was not splitting rails with an axe hoisted above his head. He was gripping a baseball bat ready to swing at a leather-covered spheroid hurling toward him.
Who knew Abe played ball?
Many things have been written about Mr. Lincoln—how as a boy working as a store clerk, he walked miles to return the change that a customer left, how he was a rail splitter, how he studied by candlelight and became a lawyer, his ability to tell a humorous yarn, his self-deprecating humor, how he killed vampires—but nary a one about him being a ball player.
I decided to don my official Jimmy Olsen Cub Reporter fedora and try to unturn the stone that was covering up this story.
I spent hours at the Chicago Public Library and pored through back issues of Baseball Digest, spent days searching through the Baseball Hall of Fame website and followed every possible interesting link that would pop up. Finally, I drove down to Paducha, Kentucky and set up shop in their History Museum which had an amazing collection of newspapers dating back to 1809 which, ironically, was the date of Abe’s birth.
When, suddenly, what to my microfiching eyes should appear but the sports page of the Hodgenville Gazeteer from July 16, 1832. There in the box score of a game between the Hodgenville Hoot Owls and the Leafdale Lions was the name A.Lincoln.
Positioned in rf (right field) he had 2 at bats and no hits. I must admit, my hands were shaking, my brow was perspiring and my bladder was bursting as I hadn’t moved from my wooden chair for several hours. I gritted my teeth, crossed my legs and soldiered on, looking for more articles.
I found one written by the paper’s sportswriter, a Clem Dumont, and it went into some detail about the Hoot Owls’ dismal season. Apparently, the team was the laughingstock of the Eastern Kentucky Base Ball League. Their pitching was circumspect, their fielding was inadequate and their hitting was nondescript. Mr. Dumont took particular umbrage with the team’s lanky right fielder, Abe Lincoln, as he wrote the following:
“The gangly hometown boy, a beanpole if there has ever been one, is most ill-suited for this game. His outfield play is atrocious as he lopes after a batted ball as if he is dodging cow pies and the word accuracy cannot fit into the same sentence to describe his throwing arm. He grasps his bat as if it were an axe and even uses it as one as he chops at the pitched ball, either missing it completely or else bouncing it to a fielder where he is an easy out. To make matters even worse, his turn at bat almost always occurs during the rare moments that the Hodgenville nine has men on base. Hence his nickname, “Abe the Rally Killer”. How he achieved even the pitiful batting average of .120 is a miracle unto itself.”
With a write up and a record like that, it is no surprise that Abe soon discontinued his baseball career as his name is absent from the following season’s box scores.. Curiously, there is no record of him telling any humorous yarns about his baseball days. I guess even self-deprecation has its limits.
This discovery does make me wonder. Could there be an Abe Lincoln baseball card somewhere? Time to don the ol’ fedora again.
Editor’s Note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Betty & Veronica…
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